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This article was first published 2 years ago  » News » Yogi Is BJP's Second Most Popular Leader

Yogi Is BJP's Second Most Popular Leader

By Shekhar Gupta
March 11, 2022 12:51 IST
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The BJP has many ruthless leaders with super-sharp political minds. But none has all this and Yogi's charisma and personal ambition, observes Shekhar Gupta.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party workers apply gulal on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after the BJP's victory in the assembly election during a celebration at the party office in Lucknow, March 10, 2022. Photograph: Nand Kumar/PTI Photo

Usually it is a series with an on-ground look at the mood in a poll-bound state that I call Writings on the Wall. The numbers at the end of this five-state poll campaign give us the other, starker, and more conventional version of the writings on the wall.

I read seven for you.


1. Two political phenomena began in Indian politics in 2012: Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. Both have proved true to their promise.

Modi, with his third successive win in Gujarat, became the front-runner for the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate in 2014.

Kejriwal morphed from an apolitical activist to a full-time politician albeit by launching a party.

In exactly a decade now, the first is a colossus of the kind Indian politics has never seen before.

I say that with some deliberation. Nehru as prime minister had no challenger, Indira Gandhi had a head-start as his daughter.

Modi is a self-made, non-dynast, and now unbeatable in a sufficient expanse of the country to remain the unassailable national leader. The repeat Uttar Pradesh landslide carves this on the wall.

2. Kejriwal began with nothing but a proposition that was apolitical, or even anti-politics. There was scepticism when he launched a political party.

What does he stand for?

What's his ideology?

Can he jump the formidable entry barriers of Indian politics?

A decade later, he has done all of that.

His political ideology is indeed what his war-cry as an activist was: Our politics sucks.

In essence, therefore, he's still anti-(conventional) politics.

The change is that his alternative is now no longer mere angry, politically anodyne activism, but a new politics of his own kind.

Welfarism and efficient delivery to rival the BJP's unapologetic Hindu religiosity to match the RSS, nationalism louder than Modi's, and a quiet substitution of Gandhi, Nehru, or Savarkar with Sardar Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb (Ambedkar).

Those are the two least polarising figures in our politics.

You might abuse Nehru 24x7, even call Gandhi names often enough, hail Godse as a hero.

Now pit Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh versus Gandhi and Savarkar, respectively. You'd know the winning side.

How sharp is Kejriwal in his politics?

No amount of woke poking persuaded him or his key lieutenants to show up at Shaheen Bagh, or the Delhi riots.

After Delhi and Punjab, he isheaded to vacuum clean the Congress vote in Gujarat later this year. Muslims will likely vote for him there.

3. For 60 years since we became a Republic in 1950, our politics was all structured around the Congress and its conception of a socialist, secular State. That epoch has faded fully.

Now we are wading neck-deep through a new, BJP/RSS/Hindu nationalism epoch. Religion has its oomph, but the pull of religiously defined new nationalism is enormously greater.

Today, if all of the BJP's rivals in Uttar Pradesh made a spectacle of walking to the Kashi Vishwanath temple across the new corridor -- which I quite like -- the secular republic has been redefined. Everybody has fallen in line.

Today, we have a new nationalism, a new secularism and increasingly a new socialism redefined as efficient, non-leaky welfarism.

4. I am tempted to say the next writing on the wall is an epitaph of two major political parties, the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party. But let me be cautious and say that both are now on the ventilator.

The Congress still runs two-and-a-half (Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra/Jharkhand) states and has access to some resources.

But given how compulsively efficient it has been with setting its own house on fire, you'd wonder how long Rajasthan will last.

With a more serious and smarter leadership, the Congress may still be redeemable, although it is getting improbable by the day as it loses its loyal vote not to the BJP but to other challengers in the anti-BJP/non-BJP space: Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, and AAP in Delhi and Punjab.

The only states where it has lost its vote to the BJP lately are Tripura and Telangana. For how long the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will keep dragging its broken wagon in Tamil Nadu is a good question.

5. If the BSP looks even more hopeless, it is because this election has affirmed a fundamental shift in UP politics. From a three-and-a-half party (BJP, SP, BSP, Congress) race, it has now become a straight BJP-SP fight.

Nobody can get power by adding one or two castes to Muslims as the SP and BSP have done in the past. Of the two, the BSP has declined to where recovery is near-impossible, especially as Muslims are unlikely to trust it again.

An incredible new experiment that Kanshi Ram launched has now been slaughtered, halal style, by his chosen successor.

6. The decimation of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the most openly and formally religious party in India, will have consequences that go far beyond electoral politics.

The unique Sikh tradition of drawing political power from religion or the panth, the much-celebrated union of church (gurdwara) and State, will not go away. If anything, with all political power gone now, it will manifest in complex ways.

This change in Punjab is not merely political. Can you keep faith completely out of politics in a state where people get lynched on mere suspicion of sacrilege and police dare not act?

Can it, or what if, AAP wins a Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee election? You might just hear more on this as the electoral dust settles.

IMAGE: Union Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah, the second most important leader in the BJP, with Yogi Adityanath, his likely challenger, at the release of the BJP election manifesto for the UP assembly election at the Indira Gandhi Pratishthan in Lucknow, February 8, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

7. And finally, another star has firmly risen in the BJP. Yogi Adityanath is now its second-most popular leader.

The 'base' adores him.

The BJP has many ruthless leaders with super-sharp political minds. But none has all this and Yogi's charisma and personal ambition.

Plus, as the youngest major leader in the country, he has got time on his side.

Some consternation among the party seniors is inevitable.

By Special Arrangement with The Print

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Shekhar Gupta
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